What makes a parent’s social life different: a dad’s perspective

Beer 150x150 What makes a parents social life different: a dads perspectiveParents find themselves in friendships with other parents, sometimes before they even realise it’s happened. From when they are very young (too young perhaps to notice that anything is going on) we take our kids along to a variety of social events, baby singing groups, baby yoga, mummy and baby, mummy and toddler, the list goes on. While we’re there we talk to the other parents attending and we begin by using a topic that we know we have in common: our kids. There’s nothing wrong with this, we’re being sociable and we’re talking about something appropriate to where we are: if we were at a concert we’d perhaps talk (during the intermission) about music, if we were at a game we might talk about the sport we’re watching, it’s natural in these kinds of settings to spark up a passing conversation with the people near you.

However, because parenting meet-ups are normally fairly regular, we find ourselves learning a lot about the people we’re talking to in these ‘passing conversations’, on top of this many of us attend a few of these events through the week so this effect is compounded until you know more about someone you have ‘passing conversations’ with than you do about old college friends. Your social circle changes when you become a parent and no one tells you how quickly, pervasively or subtly this will happen. I still spend time with old friends and I still enjoy their company greatly but the steam roller of parenthood is hard to fight against and the funny thing is I never feel like fighting it. I like talking to other parents and I like the security of knowing that if we all meet up for a night without the kids, we’re all doing the same things: checking with babysitters, wondering about whether the kids will settle while your out etc. Friends without kids can’t understand this the same way, they can recognise the need for a parent to keep in contact with the babysitter but they won’t be aware that although you may seem ‘switched off’, you never are: you’re always aware of when your child will be getting ready for bed, worrying if they’ve got their favourite soft toy (or in the case of my wee one this can sometimes be a tractor or two).

Alexander 150x150 What makes a parents social life different: a dads perspectiveMaybe that’s another thing, we can’t ‘switch off’ to our kids the way we can with work, and we don’t want to. Parents’ social lives aren’t the same thing as non-parents: when you become a parent you become aware of the limits that having a child can place on your social life and so we often gravitate towards other parents. Maybe I’m unusual but I genuinely prefer coming home from work and playing with my kids a lot more than I do heading out to be sociable. Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of fun when I’m out with friends but I’m happy at home, properly contented. I’ll happily head out for a night out when it comes along but it doesn’t bother me that most of my evenings are spent playing on the floor with a toddler and a pre-schooler.

This could, of course just be a ‘dad thing’, mums seem to be more inclined to go out and socialise. I think a big part of this might be that a lot of the time they’ve had the manic part of the day, chasing after the kids, getting them along to all the things they need to get along to, trying to diffuse a temper tantrum which is hitting zenith right in the frozen goods isle etc. etc. small breakdown etc. For a great majority of mums this is their day, for the great majority of dads we hear these stories when we get home have a laugh about them (winding mummy up), then enjoy a night of puzzles, games and stories with clapped-out kids. With this in mind I can totally see why mums need to get away, I’ve done the ‘day shift’ myself a good number of times and I get it, you start to crave some time with adults in a environment that’s easy to predict (and lacks the risk emotional meltdown over the wrong coat or forgetting something at home).

So you’ve got a babysitter and you’re out with a group of parents and this is where it can be tricky for us dads, our shared experiences are not as funny or as topical as those typically enjoyed by mums, you can’t turn completing a jigsaw puzzle in a to a master work of comedy (OK maybe some can but I’m yet to see it done). On the other hand, gruelling as it is some of the stuff the kids get up to during the day can be complete comedy gold so, given the fact that the mums are normally the ones present for this, they hold the conversation leaving us dads to muddle our way through with each other with conversations about work, sport, news etc. It’s not always the case but it is a sad truth that for us dads, sometimes parenthood isn’t enough of a bond to get the ball rolling conversationally.

awkward 150x150 What makes a parents social life different: a dads perspectiveI don’t have things quite so bad because I work a slightly reduced work week and my wife works evenings so I get my own fair share of stories to tell. I notice that a lot of dads that work from home for part of the week are in a similar place, and I have to admit I find it really easy to get on with these guys. Sometimes though, the dad you end up sitting next to isn’t as into the ins and outs of day-to-day family life, they perhaps work long hours or work away from home a lot, after a few questions on both sides you find you have nothing in common even in terms of outside interests: e.g. ‘Did you see the game?’ ‘I don’t really watch sports’ ‘Have you read this new book?’ ‘I’m not much of a reader’…..silence. We all encounter those conversational dark spots (though thankfully not often in my case) where your shared experiences take you about 4 sips into your first drink and then you kind of drift into mutual silence and watch your evening tumble away together. Unfortunately telling the other person about where you’d rather be, how awkward this is or how bored you are doesn’t really count as conversation so you hold your tongue and hope one of the mums says something funny that you could maybe talk about.

Who else has found themselves in the silent dad zone, wishing something, anything could happen to break the silence? Could this be why there are so few of us ‘Daddy bloggers’? Am I in a minority here, does everyone else find it easy to make conversation? And who else feels they can never completely switch off when they’re away from their kids? Thanks for reading, Cheers, John


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